They were magic, like a kind of chocolate from another world.
I planted seeds in the bathtub garden. Elio helped me smuggle in 10 five-pound bags of compost soil, which we spread evenly over the stained, rusty porcelain, and after a month I had sprouts coming up. He asked me, once, why I had chosen tomato plants to put in the bathtub garden.
When I was 10 I fell in love with a painter. Elio was 67. He painted in striped boxer shorts and long rubber gloves in the corner of his living room, where the rhododendron had grown tentacles strangulating all the furniture in its way. Our love was pure. He never touched me, except for an occasional pat on the head the same way he touched Pepe, his crotch-sniffing cocker spaniel. Even knowing what kind of man he was, I called this a love affair because our mutual connection was the only thing keeping each of us alive. And in our neighborhood, staying alive was tricky business.
Elio had tomatoes growing in tattered wooden boxes hanging from every window i…